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1 Introduction According to Rabbi Joshua son of Levi, spitting in a synagogue might be the same as spitting in God's eye. 1 He made a similar comment regarding the Temple Mount. 2 By this time, around the fourth century CE, the redactors of theTalmud saw a relationship between the synagogues and the Temple that implied a reflective sanctity of both. This relationship evolved out years of reinterpretation concerning the role of the synagogue in daily life, a development that marked the synagogue as a sacred place. Along with this no-expectorating policy, the synagogue also inherited titles and imagery reserved for the Temple. By the fourth century, it was common for people to label synagogues as holy; 3 or for mosaics of the Ark and Temple toadorn the walls of the synagogue, 4 as seen in the Hammath Tiberias synagogue. This evidence shows not only how Jews viewed the synagogue after the third century, but also from where the label, holy, originated. This period saw the Torah act as the focal point of the synagogue, another development which impacted the evolution of the synagogue. 5 Considering the imagery, terminology and practices related to the synagogue in the fourth century, people were defining the synagogue in terms of the Temple, which provided it with an inherent definition. While the relationship between synagogues and the Temple is clear by the fourth century, the state of it during the origins of the synagogue is not. In This Holy Place Stephen Fine argues that after the thirdcentury, Jews understood synagogues 1 See Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 3:5, 6d.2 See Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 62b.3 Chiat, 1982, 106-107.4 Levine, 2005, 233-234.5 Levine, 2005, 351-353.
2 as sacred places due to this connection with the Temple.6 By analyzing the language and context pertaining to the synagogue, Fine shows the meaning of the synagogue in Late Antiquity. However, since the meaning of this institution changes throughout history, Fine's conclusions do not apply to earlier synagogues. To fully understand the role of an institution, it is important to know and understand what it represents from its inception onward and imperative toapply a similar methodology to the entire history of the synagogue, a process that brings us to this project. The purpose of this thesis is to analyze the role of the synagogue in first century Israel, or Judaea, the Roman name of the region prior to 70 CE. Withthe writings of Josephus and the New Testament, along with archaeological remains, there is evidence to provide a fuller picture of the synagogue during the Second Temple Period than previously thought. Furthermore, by focusing specifically on a distinctregion, it is possible to understand the relationship that area had to the synagogue. As I began this thesis, the question of sacred place in the ancient synagogue interested me most. However, since the meaning of an object represents more than a singlequality, I became interested in who recognized this space, how they did so and what meaning they derived from it. I argue that while there is simply not enough information to support the thesis that the synagogue was sacred in the first century, there isenough to demonstrate the importance of it during this time and the role it established for itself in peoples lives. The sacred I am looking for is based off of miqveh or Second Temple-related purity, where the goal is a system of separation, as discussed below. This thesis relies on the theoretical works of several scholars regarding sacred place and purity, as well as some modern scholarship that helps to interpret these first century sources. In terms of primary sources, I look at the archaeological remains of 6 Fine, 1999, 7.
3 Masada, Gamla and Herodium as well as the Theodotus Inscription from Jerusalem. These remains provide a physical context for synagogue life in the first century and information regarding who used the synagogue and how they did so: information that is not mentioned in any literary source. This thesis also looks to the writings of Josephus for any information regarding synagogue life in the first century. According to the writings of Josephus, the synagogue played an important role within the history of Jewish life in the first century. Last, I treat the role of the synagogue in the canonical Gospels, especially the writings of Luke, which provide a variety of information regarding synagogues in daily life. In the next few pages, I briefly discuss the role these primary sources have in this study and I will discuss the major theoretical and historical scholarship that I use in this thesis. This methodology will allow readers to understand the dynamics of the place in relation to both the larger region as well as individual people. Ultimately, the synagogue marked a differentiated place in Judaea by providing a number of important functions, but also by maintaining a place of social and political intersection. JZ Smiths scholarship provides the theoretical lens for this research. In To Take Place,Smith authored important work concerning space and the sacred. Earlier conceptions of space relied on a dichotomy between sacred and profane, marked by such indicators as an axis mundi or orbus terrarum as they exist outside of both space and time, 7 whereas Smiths post-structuralist argument rereads space as a dynamic social construction. 8 Instead of relying on fixed meanings and the manner of the sacred, Smith argues that notions such as sacred and holy vary across cultures. Individuals and groups formulate and recreate these and other notions through their 7 Eliade, 1959, 10.8 Smith, 1993 291.
4 attitudes and behavior. There exists nothing inherently sacred in or about an object, but rather people define it through words, thoughts and gestures. Through these actions, they are creating a map of their world which provides a specific location and meaning for every word, movement and object. Even if the space itself is not otherwise ritualized, there exists a certain order that deals with issues such where people sit, when they can pray and who can talk. While the synagogue might not possess static meaning; evidence and context, such as the Torah, hint at a nature of the synagogue. The Torah's mere existence in the synagogue, for example, might affect how ancient people viewed and navigated this building. Smiths writings help to understand the meaning of the synagogue according to the congregants, based on their perception and understanding. Primary texts provide some insight into the moods and behaviors of the people regarding these buildings. By contextualizing it within the larger history of Judaism, it is possible to understand how people viewed the synagogue during this time. In other words, Smith suggests that scholars contextualize the object of their study in order to more fully understand it. In this thesis, I rely upon Smith's understanding of space and place. According to Smith, the term space refers to an area that is undifferentiated and, generally, without meaning. Space is more of an abstraction and lacks the value inherent in place. 9 On the other hand, place refers to an area that contains more meaning. Place is something that people come to understand. Once a person attaches value to space, he or she understands it and it becomes place. Under this definition, the congregants of these synagogues understood the building to be place. It contains meaning for them and they know how to behave within. The first time an individual enters or learns about a synagoguehe or she would have been unfamiliar with the 9 Smith, 1987, 28 citing Tuan, 1977, 6.
5 meaning and dynamic of this undifferentiated space. But as they entered and became acquainted through the rituals, behavior and language of the building, it developed from space to place with a unique, powerful and pervasive meaning. Some groups that did not participate in the synagogue would have seen it as something between space and place. Even if they did not understand it as their Jewish counterparts did, these outside groups would have been familiar with some aspects of the institution. Over time, even groups that did not use this place would give it their own meaning and definition. Language such as sacred, holy, impure and profane is too vague to accurately convey the complexity of a place. In this thesis, the term sacred place uses Smith's contextualized notions of sacred and place. Sacred place in this thesis relies on the feelings and attitudes of the people that know and treat an object; it depends on the gestures of the people that interact with it; and, it is movable and form-able. 10 According to Smith, there are objects that signify where a sacred place is, such as a revered icon or text, but even these signifiers are not fixed and require a larger understanding of the place. Asynagogue is only sacred if the words and gestures of the congregants make it so. What words and behavior they invoke provide more information about the sacrality of a space than a fixed marker, such as an axis mundi for example. A space can be sacred if it conforms to people's notion of sacred: a synagogue in the first century is only sacred if it coincides with notions of first century sacrality, and if individuals refer to and use it as sacred. The synagogue may not represent an axis mundi, but everything it held, from meaning to artifacts, contains hints about its importance. Even if a synagogue is not sacred, one can still apply this method of contextualization to understand its social meaning. Other theoretical works 10 Smith, 1987, 76-95.
6 inform my research regardingsynagogues in Judea. This thesis also analyzes notions of purity within the first century synagogue. When I began this project, it seemed likely that if the synagogue maintained a sacred place by the third century, as Fine argues, then this sanctity may have had roots in the first century. I examine the role of purity in the synagogue based on the first century people that used it and artifacts found in archaeological remains. Mary Douglas formulated a definition of holiness and purity that relies on a systematic definition from the Book of Leviticus. For Douglas, purity denotes satisfaction within a system of separation. 11 By following the separation guidelines as advocated by Leviticus, or other such writings, an individual could maintain his or her state of purity. While Douglas uses the terms sacred and pure interchangeably, I prefer to use Smith's notion of sacred, as mentioned above, and Douglass term purity as discussed here. So while purity refers to a places separation from the rest of the world as a distinct category,12 sacred represents the meaning of the synagogue to the people. Through rituals and actions, individuals purify themselves or other objects. 13 A person, thing or place is pure when there is order in their world, which separates them from the unclean. When something unclean crosses the boundary unto something pure, it becomes impure. Within the world of the synagogue, there is order and purity; actions and rituals determine these notions. There are instances in the primarytexts of this thesis where the synagogue's state changes from usable to unusable; or, in the sense of the building itself, from pure to impure. The goal of this thesis is to determine these attitudes throughout the origins of the synagogue. With the synagogue maintaining purity by the third century, as Fine argues, it is important to 11 Douglas, 1966, 7-8.12 Douglas, 1966, 53-54.13 Douglas, 1966 62.
7 ask from where and when this quality appeared. The final theoretical work I use concerns the role of habitual behavior, specifically Pierre Bourdieus idea of habitus According to Bourdieu, habitus is a system of dispositions, or the lasting schemes of thoughts and behaviors created by the group and enforced by the individual. 14 By focusing on the individual, Bourdieu's notion of habitus moves the focus of religion awayfrom the overarching objective ritual behavior of society and towards the every-day, subjective behavior of the individual. Habitus represents a lifetime of appropriation and learning, which provides the individual with the ability to ultimately recreatethe system themselves.15 However, the notions behind habitus do not imply that the individuals are only interested in recreation: instead, habitus represent a system of fluctuation that adapts and develops based on perceived success and creativity. Considering the prominence of the synagogue in the public world, many of the forms of navigation regarding the synagogue came from an acquired knowledge of interaction with it. The individuals did not see all their behavior as synagogue ritual, but by navigating through and around the synagogue with regularity, they were able to collect a history regarding this structure, which was subject to their individual conditionings. In this way, understanding habitus allows this thesis to investigate the role of the synagogue in everyday life and not just as it pertains to ritual behavior. This thesis treats a number of archaeological sites, including the remains of Masada, Gamla and Herodium as well as the Theodotus Inscription from Jerusalem. Chapter one provides particular details about the state of these synagogues. The archeology provides a vital information regarding synagogues in the first century, 14 Bourdieu, Outline, 72. 15 Bourdieu, Outline, 85.
8 especially in regard to the placement of the synagogue within a larger area. These archaeological artifacts provide evidence for the existence of priests, the Torah scrolls in the synagogue, and a place for public speaking within the synagogue. The buildings played a unique role in their respective communities. Each of the synagogues contains similar pieces of evidence, such as parallel architecture, but with important distinctions. Both Masada and the Theodotus Inscription prove particularly meaningful in this discussion. Masada provides information regarding important sherd s and artifacts, revealing hints into therole and actions of this space, while the Theodotus Inscription shows the expected role and abilities of the ancient synagogue. The synagogues at Herodium and Gamla, in regard to their location and design, also demonstrate the role of the synagogue in their first century communities. The contrast and similarities between these examples provides important information regarding the religious function of the synagogue during the first century. This thesis also looks at a five key literary sources: the works of Josephus and the four canonical Gospels. Even though his writings provide a majority of the information we have regarding first century Jewish life, Josephus works represent the viewpoint of an individual with an unclear agenda. Chapter two providesmore details about the way Josephus refers to, in Greek, synagogues as temples, prayer-houses or meeting-places. While he does not define how people saw these buildings, Josephus wrote about the importance of the physical location of the synagogue. In his works, the synagogue plays a major role in the beginnings of the First Jewish Revolt. In one story, a mean-spirited Gentile challenged the purity of the synagogue, causing the Revolt to break out almost immediately. This thesis is not interested in what sort of reality these texts reflect: for example, whether Josephus is writing a constructed reality meant to reflect the opinion of a certain group or the factual reality of
9 synagogue life. Rather, Josephus provides a perspective of the synagogue, inwhich he compares it to sacred Roman structures. Furthermore, he also provides evidence on how the location provided for the synagogue with political and social import. As discussed in chapter two, Josephus is writing to a community who may not have known what a synagogue was and, without such context, it sometimes becomes unclear whether Josephus is actually referring to a synagogue or another structure. This issue of perspective also applies to the Four Gospels, all of which reflect a specific society and dealt with the problem of recreating a history or narrative from over sixty years before. Chapter three details how they show either the role the synagogue played within first century Jewish and Gentile life or a later projection back. From the gestures and words of one group and the reaction of another, the Gospel writers are showing a place that maintains its own inherent order and function. In the synagogue, perhaps certain people could speak at specific times about particular subjects. In Luke 4:16-30, for example, the author describes Jesus speaking about fulfillment of scripture as he performs certain actions which may or may not be ritual, such as how he receives and handles the Torah and which subjects he is allowed to speak of. Chapter three considers these relationships between all these objects and groups. While there exists a relationship between the literary sources and the archaeology, I don't want to accidentally use one source to prove the validity of another, causing an unfair overemphasis of any specific source. Therefore, I separate each source as much as possible, by arranging the chapters in this thesis according to the type of source, and not according to their relation to each other. While I treat all the sources in their own right, I do discuss possible connections when it becomes relevant or revealing. I use several modern scholars to help interpret these primary sources and am
10 indebted to their works. Lee Levine, particularly his The Ancient Synagogue, the most recent of the sources I use, writes about the historical and theoretical history of the synagogue. 16 Another scholar I use, Fine, as mentioned above, deals with the history of the Palestinian synagogue. By using archaeology and literary sources, he argues for the importance of the fourth century Christian context in developing the notion of sacred place. 17 Both Fine and Levine worked to understand what synagogues meant throughout the ancient world, but they both tend to avoid much analysis of the first century synagogue, especially in Judaea. I also use Donald Binder's Into The Temple Courts, whichargues that the synagogue acted as the successor to the Temple. This conclusion comes out of the evidence of the role of the Torah in the late antiquity synagogues.18 Binders treatment of the relationship of Josephus' terminology and the Gospels' language proves immensely useful for this study. Anders Runessons The Origins of the Synagogue which is the more recent of these works,argues that the synagogue had non-Temple origins: assemblies and associations. 19 The assembly and association, which were informal social gatherings where people ate and conversed, shared a similar social function as the synagogues. Runesson scrutinizes much evidence and many views regarding the first century social life, in relation to the synagogue. These discussions all prove immensely useful, but no scholar has elected to look specifically at first century Judaea n synagogues. These scholars recent work on the language and context of the synagogue provides a useful step on which this thesis could begin. Focusing on a large scope of synagogues over time and space may mean that scholarship risks making broad conclusions about the synagogue, which may not be universally true. 16 Levine, 2005, 425-448.17 Fine, 1999 2-28 18 Binder, 2001, 23-25.19 Runesson, 2001a, 230-235.
11 Instead,it is important to understand the nature of the synagogue in a certain place and time. By doing this, I am able to show a more specific nature of the synagogue as it relates to a very small group of people. This thesis attempts to determine that natureof the synagogue in Judaea during the first century. Josephus and the writers of the Gospels never specifically describe their, or anyone's, feelings regarding the synagogue. This thesis looks at the words and actions of those surrounding the structure. It also looks at the objects in or near the synagogue, such as the Torah scroll and the miqveh, and how that relates to the nature of the place. Even with the possible connection with the Temple or sacred texts in the building, there is not much that classifies the synagogue in the first century as sacred or holy. Rather, these sources show the first century synagogue as a place of great political and social importance. Furthermore, the synagogue does not reflect a notion of sacred place. Through these texts and the archaeological finds, it is clear that the Judaea n synagogue in the first century acted as a place of great importance, physically orienting people and socially gathering them together. The sources show the first century synagogue as a place of great political, religious and social importance, one that is Jewish and open, and that acted as a geographic marker, allowing people to navigate their world. Understanding the important role between synagogue and location, the first subject of inquiry belongs to the physical remains of the synagogues.
12 Chapter One: Sherds and Scripture Archaeological Recreations of First Century Synagogues What does archaeology say about the institution of the synagogue in the first century? Like every part of ancient synagogue studies, the archaeological finds of ancient synagogues remain under much scrutiny. This is due to the fact that there is no clear definition of a synagogue in the first century, causing no two scholars to agree on which archaeological site held a synagogue. By the third and fourth century, the synagogue had a clear role in Jewish life, but there is no evidence to suggest that this structure had a fixed function in the first century. For the purposes of this thesis, I define the synagogue in the first century as a Jewish public place where people could meet and talk, most likely concerning scripture. From this definition I suggest that only we know of only three sites contained a synagogue in the first century: Masada, Gamla and Herodium. Gamla and Herodium provide some basic understanding of the synagogue in first century life, including the physical characteristics of the institution along with its location. However, the bulk of this chapter pertains to the Masada synagogue and, later, to the Theodotus Inscription, since these objects provide the greatest amount of evidence and information about this institution. The Masada synagogue contains a number of important artifacts that provide context and information about the institution in this city. The Theodotus Inscription shows the expected nature and capacities that first century synagogues of Jerusalem would have been intended to fulfill. From this context, this chapter analyzes the archaeology in order to understand
13 the relationship between synagogue and place, specifically regarding social behavior and identity markers. I am looking for evidence of the usage and meaning within the synagogue in order to understand its importance within the community. Since all of these remains represent different places and, to some extent, times, I try to avoid using one remain to support the conclusion drawn from another. After detailing the remains at each of these sites, this chapter contextualizes and analyzes these finds in order to understand the role of the synagogue in each of these cities. These remains provide a lot of information regarding synagogue issues like public reading, prayer, priests and so forth. Ultimately, I show that the archaeology reflects synagogues that, through their size, function and location, helped people navigate the politico-religious realm in each individual city. Herodium and Gamla The synagogues at Herodium and Gamla contain some important, general information regarding the nature of the synagogue during the first century. While there are definitely differences between these two synagogues, they provide very little information on their own and thus shall be considered together. The information regarding both of these sites is incomplete, since no complete set of the site reports have ever been published for either of these sites and, because of this, I can only use general articles written by the archaeologists about the site. Herod the Great constructed Herodium at the end of the first century BCE to create a memorialfortress. 20 According to Ehud Netzer, who composed the site report of Herodium, Jewish rebels conquered Herodium at the start of the First Jewish Revolt and converted a triclinium, or a Roman social room, in Greater Herodium to create a 20 Bella Judaica VII, 6, 1.
14 synagogue around 68 or 69 CE. 21 When Herodium fell in 71 CE, the Romans destroyed the structure, leaving little for scholars to investigate. Later events, such as the Bar Kochba Revolt, destroyed or displaced the remains at Herodium, and left only the buildings. 22 Herodium, named after King Herod, contains two distinct sections: the synagogue rests in the first section of Herodium known as Greater Herodium, essentially a fortress carved into a large hill, while Lower Herodium, the other, lies immediately to the East and contains plenty of land for farms and homes. Greater Herodium acted as the main administrative and military center of the site, due to its defensive capabilities and layout. Scholastic studies of Herodium, especially relating to the synagogue, owe a lot to the architectural surveys at Masada. According to Netzer, the similar features of the buildings imply a similar function. 23 The Herodium synagogue, a relatively plain building, has stepped benches capable of holding about 300 people and it sits in the central courtyard of Greater Herodium. No artifacts remain to indicate any of the activities that people did inside of the synagogue. Despite the 21 Netzer, 1981, 35-45.22 Magness,1997,19.23 Netzer, 1981, 46-47 Figure 1
15 scant evidence, archaeologists confidently claim this building at Herodium is a synagogue as it nearly replicates the one at Masada and Gamla, 24 both of which I discuss below. Perhaps there is a connection between these sites: a similar group of people inhabited these cities. Through ritual action and recreation, the people at this citymay have been able to orient themselves throughout their city and across the greater Judaea. The synagogue of Herodium sits within the center of the town's focus. The position is defendable yet still accessible to everyone living at the site. When the rebels converted the space, they sought a space that already acted as an important social and political center. They showed no creativity in the building selection, choosing to convert a triclinium clearly suggesting what sort of role this building shouldhave in their daily lives. By reusing a public and social place, the rebels may have been hoping to instill these same attributes into their synagogue. Furthermore, the location of this synagogue suggests that normal interaction of this space reflected acceptable practice or, in other words, Bourdieu's habitus .If the archaeology of this site is accurate, and the location of this synagogue sits near the axis of the city, then people would have acquired a collective history of this place. Through praxis, individuals interacted with this place fairly often. While it is impossible to uncover the full extent of how these people viewed this institution, they recognized the structure through daily navigation, if not integration, making this building a key monument in their day-to-day life. Here the synagogue maintains its role as a central social place due to the benches, triclinium-connection and location. While there is little else at Herodium relating to this building, the synagogue at this site emphasizes the importance of this structure in everyday life. By establishing and reinforcing this 24 Netzer, 1981, 47.
16 meaning, the synagogue provided these rebels with a means of orienting through their world. The synagogue at Gamla reinforces these views. The city of Gamla suffered a similar fate to the city of Herodium. Jews created the city as it stands today as early as the 2 nd Century BCE, while they built the synagogue as later as the early first century. Romans overwhelmed the city early in the First Jewish Revolt, in either 68 or 69 CE, and the site has remained unoccupied since. Gamla, which means camel because the region resembles a camels hump, is incredibly hilly, making it difficult for construction. The importance of Gamlas synagogues location remains difficult to address because most of the information regarding the city is unpublished, and what is available exists in the form of a few short articles. Among the published finds, archaeologists document parts of the city wall and a few buildings, including the synagogue. 25 The synagogue sits near the front gate of the city on a ledge along the side of a mountain. By having the synagogue at the entrance of the city, perhaps the people at Gamla were creating a statement about their identity for travelers. Thelocation of the synagogue is more deliberate than Herodiums because unlike the appropriation of a place as seen in this other city, Jews 25 Gutman, 1981, 30-34. Figure 2
17 built a majority of Gamla, including its synagogue, from the ground up, making this identifiable as Jewish for several hundred years. 26 What the location of the synagogue meant to the people of Gamla remains unclear and since little information exists regarding the surrounding buildings or social habits of the people it is difficult to determine how they navigated this structure. For instance, if archaeologists were to find another entrance into the city, this could diminish the importance of the synagogue. Another entrance to the city would mean that the synagogue was a building people did not navigate everyday, implying that it played less of a role in their life. Habitus suggests that the importance of the synagogue develops through repeated intentional action. By passing the synagogue everyday, the scope of its meaning increases, whereas with alternative exits to the city, the inhabitants are not forced to reckon with and navigate this institution during normal time. Since archaeologists have only uncovered one entrance into the city, it seems people were forced to navigate this structure as they entered the city, causing them to become reacquainted with the nature of the institution in everyday life. The mountainous region compelled the people to build structures at odd angles and positions. This means that since meaning may not have been as important as accessibility, perhaps the people of Gamla concerned themselves with the physical quality of the building above other matters. Another distinction between Herodiums and Masadas synagogue and the one at Gamla is the time of Jewish occupation and the age of the synagogue. By the time the First Jewish Revolt began, the synagogue at Gamla had been firmly established for a number of years, whereas the rebels had not even occupied the cities of Herodium and Masada yet, making it the oldest still26 Gutman, 1981, 31.
18 extant synagogue in this region. 27 Furthermore, since it is possible to identify Gamla as not only Jewish and because it stayed on the side of the Jews at the beginning of the Revolt, perhaps the city was much more conservative than the extremist factions elsewhere. This is in contrast to the Herodium and Masada, which housed rebels actively fighting against the Romans, or even the Jerusalem, which maintained a diversity of politico-religious factions. 28 Because of the variety of groups, perhaps this means that the synagogue may have been a more ubiquitous phenomenon in the first century than what is previously thought, and perhaps they were using the synagogue to transcend their physical circumstance. If these synagogues dotted the Judaea landscape, then perhaps, through either practice or ritual which recreated a similar sense of place, these synagogues allowed the Jews to navigate through the topographical landscape. While the Gamla synagogue has similarities to other first century synagogues, it is unique in that ancient Jews built it specifically for its purpose from the ground up. The building has stepped benches and is capable of holding a large number of people. The center of the floor is entirely dirt, except for a distinct stone slab in the very center. This stone slab and the stone benches make it likely that the building forced its inhabitants to face towards the center,29 enabling an individual to lead a service. While archaeologists found no remaining Torah scrolls or other holy texts at this location, there is a niche along the east wall of the building that may have acted as a space to hold Torah scrolls.30 Furthermore, there are two extra rooms in the back. Finally, next door there is a small room that archaeologists of this site suggest is a bet 27 Runesson, 2008, 33.28 Bella Judaica VI, 9, 3.29 Ma'oz 1981, page 37-38.30 Gutman, 1981, 30-31.
19 midrash 31 ora room meant for Torah study. Though this room may have provided a reading space for the Torah, this does not mean it acted as a bet midrash, which has its own distinct set of rituals and practices. If this space is actually a reading room, then seems that, within Gamla, the synagogue acted as a scriptural center, a place where people could store and study Torah. As with the rest of this institution, the synagogue sits in the center of its own universe, creating its own purpose and context. Even if the synagogue sat away from the social focus of the city, it remains in the center of its own domain. Considering the location of the synagogue near the entrance of the city and the concentration of scripture-related structures near each other, it is clear that the synagogue at Gamla helped to direct and orient people within and outside of the city. Even though the synagogues at Gamla and Herodium are separated by space and, in some important ways, time, they both provide an orientation to their respective communities. People would know where to go in order to find sacred texts or attend a particular service. By utilizing a similar form and structure, perhaps these structures even connected people across the great distances Masada The synagogue at Masada represents one of the clearest examples of synagogue life in the first century. The objects in the synagogue, its location within the community and the physical characteristics of the building provide an important framework into understanding this building within its community. The majority of the information in this section comes from Yigael Yadin's and Ehud Netzer's 1989 Masada field reports, which Netzer published after almost 20 years of editing. Additionally, Josephus also relates some of the history of the site, though he never 31 Gutman 1981, 31.
20 mentions any synagogue, which is not surprising considering the focus of his history is on the First Jewish Revolt. According to Josephus, King Herod constructed Masada around 40 BCE at the top of a rock plateau, which remains mostly as it exists today: a casemate wall, palaces, stables, a system of cisterns and a number of storehouses. The site remained in its original state until the beginning of the First Jewish Revolt when a Jewish group known as the Zealots overtook the Romans there, who themselves were overtaken by the Sicarii, another Jewish group, around 68 CE. The Romans eventually sacked the city in 74 CE. 32 During this tumultuous period, one of these Jewish groups created or altered structures at the site, including turning a stable into a synagogue. This synagogue is the focus of this section. The synagogue at Masada has a unique position within the cartography of the city. Masada itself is a rhomboid-shaped plateau stretching about 550 meters north and south and 275 meters east and west, and, along some cliffs, it stands nearly 400 meters high. A casemate wall provides protection and, also, the foundation for the synagogue. Furthermore, five distinct buildings mark the city. The first is a gigantic palace that clings to the northern edge of the plateau while a medium sized palace sits along the middle of the western wall. Finally, three small palaces, containing less than five rooms each, sit in a triangular formation in the southern middle section of the city. The rebels converted nearly all of the palaces and casemate rooms into storage places or residences. Looking at the objects present at the site, it is possible to see which spots at Masada 32 Cotton, 1989, 162. Figure 3
21 were more popular and important. Items such as weapons, ashes, food containers and footprints make it possible to scrutinize activities within certain areas. It is therefore possible to identify the social and political center of the site during the First Revolt, which provided a means of interfacing with the literal and ideological landscape at Masada. Yadin suggests that the rebels used the northern palace as the main administrative center, due to its view of the surrounding area, the amount of space it contains and artifacts within. 33 The westernmost palace may have acted as an administrative center and, due to the existence of various supplies, may have also acted as a storage space and home. Finally, all of the small palaces, which held grainand water-containers, may have acted as residences for the rebels. While the land at Masada lends itself to having a political and social center in the exact middle of the city due to its symmetrical design, it is likely instead that the center of politics and society lay within or near the Northern Palace, due to its importance within the city as an administrative center. The higher concentration of food containers and ashes in this area supports this notion. Even though the synagogue itself does not exist at the exact center of life for the people in Masada, it sits near the center of this prominent and accessible area. The closer an individual came towards this center, so too would he or she have increasingly recognized their location as place instead of space. At its location, anyone within the city-fortress could see and access the synagogue. According to its location, while the synagogue did not command the focus of the city, it existed near enough to this point to be an important and recognized structure. Going about their daily tasks, people would regularly pass this place, meaning that it acted as a physical marker for their universe. Like Herodium, through practice, or 33 Netzer, 1989b, 168-170.
22 habitus individuals came to interpret and appreciate the synagogue in their world, applying to it meaning and import. The synagogue played a principal role in the socio-religious life at Masada, according to evidence internal to the structure. The synagogue, which sits at the northern edge of Masada, held a storeroom, which doubled as a genizah or a ritual depository for aged sacred books. Buried underground, Yadin found fragments from Deuteronomy and Ezekiel. Since the rebels at this site deliberately buried these scrolls here, they created a relationship between religious texts and the synagogue. The complexities of this relationship are discussed in more detail below. However, along with the genizah, archaeologists found fragments of scrolls of Genesis, Leviticus, Ben-Sira, the Book of Jubilees and the Song of the Sabbath Service in heaps near the synagogue and Northern Palace. 34 People after the revolt, such as Romans or later Byzantine monks, may have collected rubble into garbage heaps so that while archaeologists did not find these texts within the synagogue, when one considers the proximity of the texts and the genizah this building probably related to these scrolls in some capacity. Considering the available room, perhaps the synagogue even held these scrolls. Aside from this, however, there is no evidence to suggest the rebels at Masada used these scrolls in any other capacity. Even if scripture-related services and rituals occurred in other locations outside of the synagogue, the ability of the synagogue to store sacred texts made it an important scriptural fixture at Masada. With no evidence suggesting otherwise, it may also have acted as the only such place at the site, thereby creating another center outside of the socio-political one represented by the Northern Palace. One issue with this evidence deals with the nature of the genizah The 34 Netzer, 1993, 982.
23 Babylonian Talmud mentions the practice of the genizah several times. 35 Because the Talmud appears well after 70 CE, it is unclear if the rebels were engaging with a specifically Jewish ritual, if they were familiar with this practice or if they were participating something altogetherdifferent. However, the similarities are too great to completely dismiss any possible connection. If the rebels understood what they were doing to be a Jewish act, then perhaps the rebels at Masada were attempting to maintain a connection with a larger community. In the writings of Josephus, he suggests the rebels at Masada may have rejected Judaism, 36 making it unclear if these people were navigating aspects of the larger Jewish faith. However, Josephus could have made this suggestion so that Romans did not cast aspersions to the entire Jewish people. Even if they rejected a Jewish identity, it seems they were still participating in certain Jewish practice, so that the synagogue becomes a point of contention where the people at Masada oriented themselves not only within their city, but also within the larger context of ancient Judaea. Aside from finding scroll fragments, archaeologists discovered a number of sherds, or fragments of pottery, that may hint at other aspects of the synagogue life in Masada. There are over 700 sherds with Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew inscriptions, but none of them provide any concrete information and few relate to this thesis. However, two sherds in particular relate to the synagogue and suggest some of its functions. One ofthese, found in the doorway, says priests' tithe in Aramaic37 and perhaps relates to the Levite tithe in regards to the Temple, but it is just as likely implies that Masada maintained its own priest to regulate synagogue life here. Since archaeologists found this sherd in the doorway and not a garbage heap, it is possible 35 Cf. Babylonian Talmud Tractates Shabbat 115a, Shabbat 30b and Pesachim 56a.36 Grabbe, 1992, 499-501.37 Sherd #441 in Netzer, 1989a, 32.
24 that the rebels practiced a tithe until the fall of Masada in 74 CE. Perhaps the collected tithe affected the community and was not necessarily collected for a purpose outside of Masada, such as for the Temple. Whatever this sherd represents, the language is interfacing with a regulated religio-social or political system. Archaeologists found a second sherd with the name Hezekiah on the floor of the synagogue and Yadin says that this refers to the name of a priest,38 though this seems unlikely since there is no evidence beyond the name to suggest that Hezekiah refers to the priestly class. Ehud Netzer, who helped with the excavation, suggests that a large room in the Western Palace, which held ostracons possibly with the names of priests or other religious leaders, acted as a bet midrash 39 As mentioned above, Netzer may be referring to a reading room and not a bet midrash Not only is there is little to support the idea that this isa bet midrash since this room could have had any number of different purposes but there is also the complexity of implying that this is a bet midrash and all of its inherent ritualized behavior. Lastly, in a rubble heap nearby the archaeologists found asherd with the words Kahana Raba 'Aqavia, or Great Priest Aqavia. 40 Perhaps there existed some semblance of a hierarchical religion within Masada, even if the hierarchy depends on a group outside the community. This title may be referencing the priestsat the Second Temple or even reflect order within its own priestly system, but since it was lying in a pile of rubble, one cannot tell if it had a use, what that use was or where it even stood. Unlike the scrolls, which connect between the existence of those in the synagogue and the others in rubble heaps, there is no indicator of the original location of this sherd. These priests may have helped maintain the synagogue, and their very existence, along with the scrolls, hints at the 38 Yadin, 1981, 20.39 Yadin, 1981, 21.40 Sherd #461 in Netzer, 1989a, 37.
25 possibility of a service. Ultimately, the role of the priest is unclear at this site, though the locus of the priests tithe sherd and the Great Priest Aqavia sherd further imply the role the synagogue had as Masadas socio-religious center. The features of the building hint at other aspects of the synagogue. Stepped benches along all four walls could accommodate more than 250 people at once. 41 If scholars are correct in assuming that around 1,000 people resided in Masada during the First Revolt, 42 then the synagogue could have supported a large number of that community. The size and function of the building, then, suggests that it acted as a public space. Furthermore, the arrangement of the stepped benches, which face towards the center of the room, demonstrates the most of the action occurred in the center of the room. Perhaps a single individual, like a priest, or a group stood here and led the people in the synagogue through a service or ritual. Either way, the size and features of the building lend itself to being understood as a public place. In this way, the synagogue at Masada provided a place for public use. Considering its status as the only religious structure and its position near the socio-political focus of the city, the synagogue played the role of orienting people within the city. However, as seen above, this function tied within the greater region as the synagogue likely acted as a point of reference throughout Judaea, as demonstrated by its engagements with rituals like the genizah Ultimately, the synagogue at Masada represents an institution that allowed individuals to navigate through their cities and, possibly, orient themselves through the larger region of Judaea. TheTheodotus Inscription; or, the Jerusalem Synagogue According to literary sources, there were a number of synagogues within 41 Cohen, 1982, 395.42 Netzer, 1989, 411.
26 Jerusalem during the time of the Second Temple.43 The Theodotus Inscription is the only physical remain of any of these synagogues. Archaeologists discovered the inscription in a cistern on Mt. Ophel during their excavation of the Temple Mount and believe that it once belonged to a synagogue around that area. No one has been able to identify the building that the inscription refers to or exactly when this inscription was created, although there are a few guesses. 44 While there has been some debate about the age of the inscription itself, 45 most scholars accept that it reflects a first century account of synagogue life. 46 This account provides many pieces of information about synagogues in Jerusalem, especially relating to power structures and liturgy. But most importantly, founders of this synagogue used the building as a geographical marker in order to engage with both locals and pilgrims. This means that people who may have never been to Jerusalem could have recognized it, allowing it to guide them through the city. The Thedodotus Inscription is as follows: Theodotus, (son) of Vettenus, priest and archisynagogos, son of an archisynagogos, grandson of an archisynagogos, built the synagogue for the reading of thelaw and the teaching of the commandments, and the guest-chamber and the rooms and the water installations for lodging for those needing them from abroad, which his fathers, the elders and Simonides founded. 47 This inscription is one of the clearest examples of synagogue life during the first century. Theodotus, a very common Greek name, comes from a long line of archisynagogos, or synagogue leaders, and was himself a priest and an archisynagogos. This intimates that a single family controlled a synagogue,48 even though some have suggested that, due to the difference in name, Vettenus is 43 John 9:22-23, and John 12:42-43.44 Weill, 1994, 186-90.45 Kee, 1999, 43-45. 46 Riesner, 1995, 209.47 Binder, 2001, 35.48 Runesson, 2008, 54.
27 Theodotus patron,49 and not his father. Theodotus' father and his father's father could not have worked at the synagogue he created, since Theodotus created it after they worked as synagogue leaders, and so perhaps his family led a synagogue elsewhere in Jerusalem, meaning that this inscription might refer to at least two synagogues in the city. This is not too surprising, since other sources attest to the existence of multiple synagogues in first century Jerusalem. 50 This text also refers to liturgical practices within the synagogue. While it is not clear how one is meant to teach or read the law, it is likely that the inscription refers to public reading, in regards to teaching the commandments, which provides the best evidence for the existence of public readings in synagogues during the first century. Here the inscription is also referring to a building with a variety of functions, which may shed some light on its form. There is a possibility this building looked like the synagogues at Masada or Gamla. But considering the mention of other rooms, such as for lodgers and guests, one can only guess at the look of this synagogue. The text also mentions several rooms suited for the water installations for lodgers. These water installations do not specifically refer to anything but could allude to a ritual bath, a mikveh a cistern or something else, perhaps drinking water. A miqveh or a ritual bathes do not indicate anything definite about the synagogue. Furthermore, Simonides, a common name, 51 and the elders could be a reference to any variety of people, though their existence suggests a hierarchy in the synagogue system, with either the elders or Theodotus leading the synagogue. What is interesting is the role Theodotus wanted his synagogue to have. The synagogue maintained a double purpose of aiding travelers, probably heading to the Temple, and 49 Kloppenborg, 2000, 262. 50 See Chapter 1, Footnote 17.51 Runesson, 2008, 54.
28 serving the local community, possibly for synagogue services. Here the synagogue does not just help people, leads them to where they need to go. This role reflects the spectrum within Smith's work regarding place and space. Even travelers, who would have been lost within the space of the city, recognized the placeness of the synagogue in order to utilize it and orient themselves. The synagogue also gives meaning to the larger city so that it becomes a place for the individuals. This purpose underscores the role of the synagogue in the ancient world: like the synagogue at Masada, it provided a way for people to orient themselves through their city. Other Evidence Two aspects often brought up in first century synagogue discussions that I have purposefully avoided are the physical orientation of the building itself and the connection with miqvaot, plural of mikveh I conclude that these aspects of synagogue life, which can be used to make claims about purity, actually have nothing to do with the meaning of the synagogue itself. As I explain below, some scholarship has referred to the orientation of the building towards Jerusalem as an interpretation of Babylonian Talmud.52 By facing Jerusalem, which at least two of the above do, the building would not be pointing at Jerusalem, but, more specifically, the Second Temple. Whatever interpretation or connotation one can argue from this relationship is made moot by the fact that other factors influenced the people who built or rearranged the synagogue; at Gamla, they had little room to build their synagogue due to the terrain,and so it would be difficult to choose their desired orientation; the synagogue at Herodium does not even face towards Jerusalem; and, while the rebels at Masada chose their respective buildings to be centrally located, as I argue 52 See Babylonian Talmud Megillah III, 22
29 previously, they then did not have a choice in its orientation. Furthermore, the Masada synagogue was originally a stable, 53 a filthy place that ought not be connected with such a site and it would be odd for the rebels to choose this place to make this connection. While one could regard the positioning of the synagogue as a mere coincidence, it is clear that Jews saw it as a secondary concern among other issues, and should therefore not impact our understanding of the structures. A second piece of evidence used in the discussion of these first century synagogues is the existence of a nearby miqveh, or a ritual bath used for purification. The reason I avoid this evidence is because it is unclear what exactly separates a miqveh from a stepped bath, or a non-ritual bath. One could find these structures all throughout first century Land of Israel and some scholars argue that they are all miqvaot 54 while others suggest a far more conservative number of them acted as such. 55 While there is certainly at least one of these structures in all of the above cities, and near the synagogues no less, it is not clear what role these structures represented. A miqveh sitting close to a synagogue does not mean that these two objects impacted each other. In Masada, there are dozens of these baths, but scholars only suggest that two are miqvaot, 56 and even the one nearest to the synagogue is several meters away. Similarly, the mikveh near the Herodium synagogue sits at the other end of a courtyard, meaning that the connection between the two structures is not so clear. Furthermore, some scholars even suggest that the mikvaot are too small to accommodate such a large population.57 Even though miqvaot or ritual baths are invariably located near each of these Judaea n synagogues, they are also common 53 Netzer, 1989b, 412.54 Sanders, 1992, 257.55 Wright, 1997, 213.56 Netzer, 1993b, 980-981.57 Haber, 2008 165
30 across the landscape on their own so that it is difficult to suggest any substantial connection. The problem with this idea, though, comes from Gamlas synagogue. Unlike Masada and Herodium, the people at Gamla made a distinct place based around the Torah: within a small area there is a synagogue, a bet midrash and a mikveh However, there are at least two other mikvaot at the site, meaning that there is not enough evidence to make a claim about the nature of these stepped pools. Even assuming that the baths near the synagogues are miqvaot the relationship between the synagogue and the miqvaot is unclear. If people handled sacred texts in the synagogue, did they need to purify themselves before use, or after, as Mishna Yadayim 3:5 states that all sacred scripture renders the hand unclean?58 This would mean that miqvaot have nothing to do with synagogue sanctity itself, and more to do with scripture, as people would use it afterward. Even if this represents a miqveh, it does not mean that this structure impacts the synagogue, and it is important to emphasize the lack of a relationship between these two structures. The existence of a miqveh does not indicate the existence of a synagogue or provide meaning for it, but only provides the opportunity for cleanliness and possibly alludes to the nearby use of the Torah. So while it is possible that there is a connection between the two structures, it is impossible to know if they impacted each other. Conclusions This chapter looks at the role the synagogue provided in the first century Judaea. Using the archaeological finds of synagogues in Gamla, Herodium, Masada and Jerusalem, this paper explores where this place fits within the larger context of 58 Runesson, 2001, 128.
31 the city. In Masada, the synagogue possibly provided a place for people to meet and discuss scripture or one for at least Torah storage. In Herodium and Gamla, the synagogues acted as public structures where a large part of the population could come and discuss certain issues. With all of these places, people positioned the synagogue so that it was visible and centrally located, a context which changed for every city. Even if the synagogue did not play a central role in first century life, it sat in a vital location. Finally, the Theodotus Inscription hints atother aspects of pre-70 synagogue practice in Jerusalem. This synagogue provided aid not only to the local populace, but also to the larger Jewish community by helping out travelers seeking aid. While the rituals and practices within first century synagogues remain elusive, ultimately, the synagogue provided a means of orientation for people in that city. These physical remains help show the exact location of the synagogue in the ancient world, but textual evidence reflects attitudes and feelings towards the synagogues. With this in mind, I turn now to the writings of Josephus to illuminate how people treated the synagogue in the first century.
32 Chapter 2:They were crowding rapidly to their Synagogue Evidence for Synagogue Life in the Writings of Flavius JosephusWhereas the archaeology shows how the synagogue existed specifically within sites, Josephus provides more interest in the larger political landscape of the first century. While he often uses specific stories to emphasize a point or provide information, they often represent something greater. Josephus, due to factors that left few other histories, serves as the primary source of information about Jewish life in the first century. While Josephus provides a lot of the information concerning first century Judaism, and even though he tries to convey as much information as possible, his treatment of the synagogue remains confined to a handful of short anecdotes. Considering Josephus' focus on political matters, it is no surprise that the synagogue represent a means of expressing politics and society that impacted the landscape of Judaea. In these works, the synagogue acts as a topographical marker that oriented people through the region. Despite this, Josephus still provides useful information about these buildings. After briefly contextualizing and exploring the issue of historicity of Josephus, this chapter focuses specifically on the language that Josephus uses concerning synagogues in the first century Judaea. In this chapter,I first analyze the term synagogo then hiera and, finally, proseuche. Furthermore, I then show how these terms refer specifically to synagogues and then I analyze what these instances say about the nature of the synagogue. Josephus uses these terms todescribe synagogues, but they may not always refer to such structures. Because he wrote to people
33 unfamiliar with synagogues, Josephus audience, discussed below, may have only understood this space, according to them, in terms of places they already knew. By using this language, Josephus is comparing these synagogues to sacred places, though this may not reflect the nature of the synagogue. The issue of understanding Josephus' audience and language involves Smith's notions of space and place, as the author is familiar with an object but his audience is not, causing Josephus to describe an undifferentiated space as a known place. Within his writings, Josephus suggests how people treated the place and how the building fit in the landscape of Israel. He also describes a variety of people navigating this structure in the first century. I ultimately show that the writings of Josephus demonstrate that synagogues in the ancient world acted as a means of expressing group identity while also orienting people through the larger geography of Judaea. Josephus as a Source In a recent study about the validity of Josephus, Steve Mason discusses the advantages and problems of academically relying on Josephus. Mason argues that it is impossible to draw a conclusionabout the ultimate aims of Josephus and that scholarship needs to understand Josephus in a greater socio-historical context. 59 According to Mason, Josephus perception of history intertwines with notions of prestige and politics. 60 What Mason means by this is that Josephus is actively trying to demonstrate that he is the most valuable and aware historian on this subject.In order to be accurate, Josephus tries to not overcompensate by praising his friends too much but will give due praise and blame to both sides. 61 One of Josephus' goals is to preserve the politics of his time. By recording his political landscape, Josephus' work 59 Mason,2009, 42.60 Mason, 2009, 8.61 Mason, 2009, 11.
34 becomes interested in the literal and ideological movements of people. Modern issues regarding Josephus stem from questions concerning who, what and why in his narrative. 62 Josephus' narrative settles these matters slightly by having his political account play out across a physical landscape. This, along with the notion that he had a keen eye for political groups, means that Josephus pays particular attention to which group was where and what they did. 63 While there is much archaeology to confirm or reject the statements made by Josephus, 64 it is not enough to say that Josephus is simply right or wrong. 65 The writings of Josephus convey the attitudes of a specific man from a certain place and time which means the way he expresses his ideas are often more important than what he says. In this way, these difficulties become less of a problem and provide a unique kind of insight into first century synagogues. One of the major issues in studying Josephus stems from his audience. It is unclear exactly whom he wrote for. At the start of the First Jewish Revolt, Josephus was a Jewish general in the Galilee region and, at one point, the Roman armies surrounded the city with him in it. Ultimately Josephus surrendered to the Romans and, due to his education, eventually went to Rome as a prisoner. Later, the Romans freed him and he set about writing the history of the First Jewish Revolt. If the complexities of the situation are not immediately clear: Josephus was writing in Rome about events in Judaea which included a war between the Romans and Jews, all while under Roman authority, and yet mostly about the Jews by the payment of the Romans. In other words, Josephus is writing to a Roman audience, this account indicates possible bias towards and against the Jews. However, what Mason suggests is that 62 Mason, 2009, 40.63 Baumgarten, 2006, 12-13.64 Cohen, 1982, 390.65 Binder, 2001, 58.
35 Josephus is still a reliable source. 66 By not assuming bias or by employing wellrespected authors, Josephus is attempting to give himself an air of legitimacy so that he would standout as the eminent source on this history. Even though Josephus does not employ modern notions of historicity, by realizing his understanding of accuracy, this thesis can properly use him as a source and employ his flaws and biases as assets. Josephus' Synagogues Considering the issues above, we can explore the role of the synagogue within the writings of Josephus. There is a major issue within all of the writings on the early synagogues: often times, there is no exact word for the synagogue. The closest word that describes the synagogue is the ancient Greek word synagogos which refers to a place of meeting, but does not necessarily possess Jewish connotations. 67 Unlike in English which has a distinct word for this institution, there is no known word which refers only to a Jewish synagogue in the ancient world. Furthermore, Josephus possibly described synagogues as a proseuche and hieron, or prayer hall and temple, respectively.68 These are terms that need to be understood within their own context. This section is organized around these terms, beginning with synagogos then proseuche and then ending with hieron. By using this specific language, Josephus is trying to familiarize his Roman audience with these places. Josephus may have recognized that they would not have understood what a synagogue was and Josephus used language that they could understand. Even though it is not always clear, through the words and language Josephus is comparing the place of the synagogue to nonJewish sacred places. In only one passage Josephus describes the synagogue as a sacred place for the Jews, though this is the only time there is evidence that this place 66 Mason, 2009, 11.67 Frankfurter, 2001, 7.68 Frankfurter, 2001, 7-8.
36 is either sacred or profane. 69 In the rest of his writings, Josephus shows the synagogue only as a minor object in an epic narrative. Even though Josephus is using sacred structures to describe the synagogue, this does not necessarily indicate that synagogues maintained sacred place. Instead, through the writings of Josephus, it is possible to see the synagogue as an important identity marker for the Jews as well as providing orientation throughout the larger region of the Judaea. Josephus only uses the term that most clearly refers to a synagogue twice, specifically synagogos or synagoge The first instance of this appears in Josephus' description of how the First Jewish Revolt began. 70 Josephus relates the story of a synagogue in Caesara sitting between two parcels of Greek land, which made it difficult for people to access the building. In spite of the Jews, the Greeks made it even more difficult to access the building by creating other structures around the synagogue. After considerable tension, a Roman with a temper, whom Josephus described as a mischief maker, sacrificed a bird near the entrance of a synagogue in Caesara, on the actual property of the synagogue, though not within the building. 71 After a brief fight between the town's Jews and non-Jews, the Jews took out their copy of the Torah from the synagogue and brought it to a nearby Jewish city, Narbata. As Josephus writes: Now on the next day, which was the seventh day of the week, when the Jews were crowding rapidly to their [ synagogue ], a certain man of Caesara got an earthen vessel, and set it with the bottom upward, at the entrance of that synagogue, and sacrificed birds. This thing provoked the Jews to an incurable degree, because their laws were affronted, and the place was pollutedBut Jucundus, the master of the cavalry, who was ordered to prevent the fight, came there, and took away the earthen 69 Milgroom, 1991 page 732.70 DeBello Judaico2.285-92. 71 Unless otherwise noted, this paper will be using the following translation of Josephus' works: Josephus, Flavius The New Complete Works ofJosephustranslated by William Whiston (Kregel Academic: Grand Rapids, 1999). The use of 'mischief maker' comes from Runesson Ancient Synagogues, page 21.
37 vessel, and tried to put a stop to the rebellion; but when he was overcome by violence of the people of Caesara, the Jews took their books of the law, and retired to Narbata, which was a place belonging to them, distant from Caesara sixty furlongs. 72 After they got to the city, one of the leaders arrested the Jews for taking the Torah out of the Caesara synagogue. This passage shows a lot of movement between separate groups, but, to Josephus credit, even if this is not accurate, it is still a much unbiased account of events. 73 Despite the number of problems with this text regarding historicity, Josephus is creating a complex political narrative that describes the failures and successes of both sides. 74 By attempting to treat everyone equally, Josephus is claiming that his narrative adequately reflects the actual events. In terms of the building itself, it is the most likely candidate to be a synagogue within the works of Josephus. This can be discerned from the actions of the Jews using this place along from the title itself. Even Lee Levine, who is often wary of using Josephus as a source, contends that this passage reflects synagogue usage and is demonstrative of synagogue practice. 75 While in chapter one I explored the possibility that the Torah remained in the synagogue, as seen with the Masada synagogue, this passage shows alternative evidence for the possibility that the Jews stored the Torah in the synagogue during the first century. One of the issues in this passage deals with public expression. By blocking access to the synagogue, the non-Jews in the area are attempting to prevent the expression of Jewish identity. The synagogue then acts asa statement of Jewish presence within the city. However, this attempt at self-expression results in failure when the Jews are forced out of the city as their synagogue no longer adequately 72 De Bello Judaico 2.289-291 73 Baumgarten, 2006, 13.74 Mason, 2009, 35-36.75 Levine, 2005, 42.
38 provides a useful place and no longer acts as a separated pure place within their universe. This issue then includes the movement of the Torah. According to the passage, the synagogue acted as the Torah's general resting place. In fact, the Torah's place is specifically this synagogue, since Jewish leaders elsewhere chastise the exodus of the Jews with the scripture. After the Greek aggressions desecrate this place, the Jews remove the Torah and take it elsewhere. So while this synagogue represents a failed attempt to express Jewish identity in the city of Caesara, it also represents some interesting issues concerning purity. This remains the only time that Josephus discusses the Torah in the synagogue, but the connection between these two objects provides context concerning the synagogue's fluid meaning. Douglas'ssystem of purity and holiness accurately reflect the events described in the passage. Before these events, the Jews used unrecorded ritualized action to keep or make this place pure, or at least create a state acceptable for the Torah. Through the impure actions of the non-Jews, the ritual actions become null and the space reverts to an unclean state, as in the opposite of pure. In a previously unexplored aspect of the ancient synagogue, this source does not suggest that Jews maintained this place as sacred, but rather that it was pure in its relation to the Torah. This is an interesting case within the origins of the synagogue, yet it remains the only example where a synagogue's meaning undergoes change. But perhaps this is evidence that a certain amount of ritualized behavior was necessary in order for a synagogue to be pure enough to maintain its societal role. By allowing the synagogue to enter a state of uncleanness, whatever that quality implies for the synagogue, the Jews would be unable to use this institution until they performed the correct rites in order to make it pure again. Through these changes and processes, Josephus describes the synagogue as maintaining its own unique sense of purity and
39 cleanliness. While this remains the one time that the synagogue goes through a change of state in the first century, it is indicative of the role the synagogue held in the first century. Though it failed, the Jews were trying to establish their identity in this city through the location and use of the synagogue. With the loss of cleanliness, this synagogue could no longer hold the Torah and it no longer acted as a permissible place for the expression of identity. The only other time that Josephus uses the term directly related to synagogue, he uses the verb form of synago to refer to the physical act of meeting, which took place within a building he calls a proseucheand probably acted as a synagogue. Synago refers not so much to the building but to the actions within the building. This issue of whether Josephus is actually referring to a synagogue is dealt with in more detail below. While Josephus is describing this synagogue, he simply is trying to express his ideas to an audience that did not recognize this institution. The first instance of proseuche in Josephus' writing occurs when he brings up a meeting between a group of people in Tiberias in which they discuss how they plan to act in the beginning of the First Jewish Revolt. 76 However, the group cannot come to a consensus and fortunately they break for the Sabbath before they dissolve into fighting. There are two main issues with this text: the language and the actual events. Accordingly, the language implies that this is in fact a synagogue. The term used to describe the building, proseuche, which is often translated as prayer-hall, frequently refers to synagogues in the Diaspora. 77 This may reflect Josephus' own move to Rome, where he wrote these histories, and highlights the issue that Josephus did not always call synagogues as such. While the words prayer-hall and synagogue 76 Josephus Vita, 276-28177 Runesson, 2008, 78.
40 seem to be interchangeable and even though Josephus was referring to a known synagogue, it is unclear if his audience understood the distinction between these two structures. This story about the Tiberias synagogue, the description of the actual building itself and the people associated with it reflects the role of the synagogue in the first century. Josephus describes the building as the largest, public place in the area.78 According to Josephus, everyone came together and met in the synagogue,79 though everyone likely refers to the Jewish population. However, the fact that a political meeting occurred within this place implies that the building acted similarly to a Roman basilica or collegia a structure where various groups could meet. 80 Furthermore, there is a councilman, who is noted as the leader of the group within the synagogue, and is referred to as an archon. 81 The archon probably had very little connection with synagogue life in the first century, but it is a title that is often associated with a magistrate or administrator.82 Smith helps interpret some of the language concerning what is occurring at this synagogue by providing specific language regarding place. 83 In this story from Tiberias, Josephus discusses a meeting of Jewish leaders in a synagogue right before the start of the Revolt. After the break for the Sabbath, Josephus relates: we were performing our lawful duties and directing ourselves to prayer... which implies either that prayer occurred in these buildings or that Josephus was drawing a connection to either Roman notions of prayer and Jewish buildings. 84 Here, then, is one of the few instances of prayer in the 78 Josephus Vita, 277.79 Josephus Vita276-81.80 Richardson, 1996, 108-9.81 Runesson, 2008, 78.82 Runesson, 2008, 78.83 See Introduction, page 5-6, regarding discussion of place versus space.84 Josephus Vita, 276-181.
41 first century synagogue, according to some scholars, it seems accuratelyto reflect reality.85 Through these, and other, ritual actions, the Jews using this space may have been recreating and reinforcing the notions of the place. Throughout the narrative, Josephus cannot explain why or how people knew to meet at the synagogue. 86 Smith's notion of place and space explains the movement of these people. By continually performing certain rituals, such as prayer as seen above, the ancient Jews were reinforcing the meaning of the place. Aside from regular times, it seems that thisprovided a place to meet during emergency, another notion ritualistically reinforced. By performing these actions, the Jews became intimately familiar with the place and allotted it a strong sense of meaning. This tension between place and space demonstrates how, through ritual, the Jews knew where to gather and perform prayer, making this an object of orientation within the city. Josephus' next usage of the term proseucheis actually a citation of another Roman writer looking at Jewish buildings in the first century. Smith's notions of place and space apply in this situation as well. Josephus, who recognized the synagogue and saw it as place, bore witness to this institution for a people, who were unfamiliar to the synagogue and saw it entirely as space. By utilizing the language and actions familiar to a Roman audience, Josephus is making this a place for his audience by using familiar language and actions. In this passage, Josephus is citing the Roman author Apion, from the early first century, to suggest that the origins of the proseuche trace back to Moses. ...Apion makes the following statement: Moses, as I have heard from old people in Egypt, was a native of Heliopolis, who, being pledged to the customs of his country, erected [proseuchai], open to the air, in the various precincts of the city (Jerusalem), all facing eastward; such 85 Levine, 2005, 52-3.86 Josephus Vita, 280.
42 being the orientation also of Heliopolis... When Moses built the first tabernacle for God, he neither placed in it himself, nor instructed his successors to make any graven image of this kind. When Solomon, later on, built the temple at Jerusalem, he too refrained from any curiosities of art such as Apion has conceived.87 The writings of Josephus in this work, Contra Apion, represent the zenith of Josephus as writing to a Roman audience: he is using a variety of sources to prove and explain the history of the Jews. This use of proseuche represents a more complicated reference to a synagogue. If one is to read this usage as a synagogue, then this would indicate thatJosephus was aware of synagogues in the city of Jerusalem, which is as some scholars suggest. 88 It is possible that Apion saw these two structures, the synagogue and the Temple, as similar buildings.89 By citing the works of Apion, Josephus is revealingone of the tools he uses to establish his legitimacy: he is using a respected thinker in order to back up his own claims. According to Anders Runesson,Apion may have heard about the many temples in Egypt, 90 heard about the Second Temple in Jerusalem, thereby creating a connection and assuming that there were a number of 'temples' in both places, even though Apion is actually referring to synagogues.91 Through this confusing back and forth, Josephus approaches this quote and understands Apion to literally mean the Temple, which he then uses to draw a connection between Moses and the Temple. Through this, then, there is a disconnect between Josephus, who is looking at the synagogue-Temple connection, and the writings of Apion, which do not effectively differentiate between the Temple and synagogues and may not have even known the difference.While this misunderstanding clearly makes the situation difficult, it is 87 Conta Apionem2.10-12 88 Cohen, 1987, 162. 89 Bilde, 1999, 24. 90 Possibly a reference to 3 Maccabees 2:28, 3:29 or 4:17-18.91 Runesson, 2008, 50.
43 likely that Josephus misinterpreted Apion's statement. While this provides for poor history, it probably reflects what Josephus knew to be true about the state of the synagogue. There are two important conclusions to draw from this reference to a synagogue. First, Apion clearly marks the orientation of each of the buildings towards the east. Since there are several of the same buildings and they all orient in the same direction, in correspondence with the city, they are not only recreating the same notions for place, but they are also maintaining the direction as a holy way to achieve the pure state of the synagogue. Furthermore, through the connected orientations of the city and the synagogues, the synagogues are drawing a map or topographical landscape so that people knew where to go and how to move about the city. The second aspect of this synagogue comes from the relationship that Josephus draws between the original synagogue and Solomon's Temple, or the First Temple. By original, Josephus may have thought that synagogue originated at least to the time of Moses, 92 which Apion refers to as proseuchai. In this passage, Moses built the first tabernacle of God, but he does not allow any graven image to enter into these synagogues. By continuing to enforce this practice of keeping the graven images out of the synagogue, the Jews are maintaining an aspect of their identity. Perhaps the plain synagogues of Masada and Herodium represent a continuation of this practice. By creating a topography of a city and keeping graven images out of the synagogue, the Jews were marking themselves in their location as well as expressing parts of their identity and thereby making a distinction between the synagogue specific purity and 92 Cf. Acts 15:21 and Philo's De vita Mosis2.214-216. These texts may refer to the common Diaspora notion that some synagogue practices extended to the time of Moses.
44 the disorder of the rest of the universe. This brings us to the third term that Josephus uses to describe the synagogue, which is hieron. The final term Josephus uses to describe a synagogue is the term hieron. Hieronis normally translated as temple or sanctuary, but here it likely refers to a synagogue. In this passage, Josephus is describing the aftermath of the Fall of Jerusalem.The Romans held a triumphal procession to recreate the fate ofIsraeland, on a float celebrating the victorious military leaders, actors re-enacted scenes from the war: Here was to be seen a prosperous country devastated, their whole battalions of the enemy slaughtered; here a party in flight, there others led in captivity; walls of suppressing compass demolished by engines, strong fortresses overpowered, cities with well-manned defenses completely mastered and an army pouring within the ramparts, an area all deluged with blood, the hands of those incapable of resistance raised in supplication, [ hiera ] set on fire, houses pulled down over their owners ears For to such suffering were the Jews destined when they plunged into the way 93 Here hiera are translated as sanctuaries 94 or temples, 95 both religious places, which could portray synagogues. 96 In this description, the Romans differentiated hierafrom the Temple, homes, and cities; all of which appear later in the procession.97 This distinction, along with the use of the plural and the fact that the Romans describe themselves destroying the structure, indicates that these are synagogues. In this procession, both Josephus and the Romans are drawing comparisons between the synagogues and other major objects: specifically, the Temple, homes and cities. Josephus indicates that these synagogues acted as significant parts of, or as markers 93 De Bello Judaico 7.143-146. 94 Runesson, 2001a, 430. 95 Whiston, 1999, 920.96 Levine,1996, 430.97 Binder, 2001, 123-124.
45 between, cities, where they may have offered shelter to travelers.98 Unlike the synagogues in chapter one, whichoriented people throughout their respective cities, Josephus is showing synagogues to be topographical markers that can orient people throughout the larger region. This indicates that the synagogue played a larger role in defining the landscape of Israelthan previously thought. Other passages indicate the use of the synagogue as a land marker. In this case, Josephus is describing the bands of thieves that wandered acrossthe Judaea: ...then joining forces and swearing mutual allegiance, they would proceed by companies smaller than an army but larger than a mere band of robbers to fall upon [hiera ] and cities. 99 Josephus also mentions that some of the Jews asked Romans for help in dealing with this situation, which would imply that these are Jewish structure. 100 Anders Runesson translates this term hiera as sanctuaries, 101 while William Whiston translates this phrase as holy places, which he states may refer to sacred places which allowed prayer and were not in the city.102 In this passage, it is most likely that these are antiJewish robbers who are destroying the structure, 103 indicating that, along with other uses of the term hiera this is probably a synagogue. As seen above, the synagogue represents an institution that is a major part of the city and may have occasionally existed on their own across the landscape. This is not too surprising since other instances the term hiera offer the ability to house and aid travelers, much as a city would. The synagogues that these hiera indicated provided anobject of orientation through Judaea. 98 See Josephus' De Bello Judaico1.277 or Antiquitates Judaicae14.374, which indicates other hiera sheltered pilgrims and existed along the roads between towns.99 De Bello Judaico4.408 100De Bello Judaico4.410-411101Runesson, 2008, 93.102Whiston, 1999, 828, footnote 1. Whiston refer to other places where it is common to see 'holy places' outside of cities, usually near a river or a road.103Levine, 2005, page 46, footnote 4.
46 Conclusions The works of Josephus are difficult to unravel as much of the information that would allow us to know what Josephus is thinking is impossible to ascertain. However, it is clear that Josephus is writing to an educated gentile audience, who, away in Rome or other parts of the world, would not have been familiar withIsrael. Because of this, the language Josephus uses when dealing with technical details about Jewish life in the first century is unclear, and it is only through context and analysis that this language makes sense.Through this chapter, I have brought up a number of possible references to synagogues in the first century through the writings of Josephus.These terms are based around the wordssynagogo proseuche, and hiera While it is clear that this language refers to buildings that had the same function as synagogues, they do tell us about synagogues.Through these rare instances, the synagogue has the properties of a public place, with liturgy based around the Torah and prayer.Ultimately, I suggest that, according to Josephus, the synagogues in the ancient world acted as a means of expressing group identity while also orienting people through the larger geography of Judaea. Finally, this thesis turns to the last source concerning synagogues in the first century: the New Testament.
47 Chapter Three: All in the Synagogue Were Filled with Rage Synagogue and Place in the New Testament In the writings of Josephus, there is evidence that the synagogues of first century Judaea acted as geographical and identity markers.Beyond this, there are the over 40 references to Judaea n synagogues in the New Testament, which show this institution as a public, Jewish, meeting space.In order to determine these attributes, this chapter focuses on several passages out of the Gospels of Mark, Luke, Matthew and John. 104 Mark provides some of the best insight into synagogue life and demonstrates the role of the congregation, including a possible liturgy in the synagogue and the use of this space as a public forum.The Gospels of Luke and Matthew, which I analyze together, expand on the findings of Mark, but also highlight a number of tensions that existed in the synagogue, from political dynamics tothe role of gender.Lastly, the Gospel of John, the latest of all the Gospels, provides support for conclusions drawn from the other Gospels.Most scholars date Mark as the earliest of these books and John as the most recent, with Matthew and Luke lying somewhere between those books.For the purposes of organization, this chapter arranges the study of the books in the commonly accepted scholastic chronological order: Mark, Luke/Matthew, and then John.105 This thesis focuses on the movement within and around the synagogue, the arrangement of people, and the words and actions inside the building.In order to supplement the study of these writings, I also 104Other New Testament books, such as the Epistle of James, the Acts of Apostles, Revelations and 2Corithians, contain references to synagogues but are outside the scope of this thesis in terms of region and time.105Marcus, 2000, 69-75.
48 use the research done by Anders Runesson and Joel Marcus.Marcus's commentary on Mark provides some ofthe most recent research into the study of this Gospel. Runesson, in his survey of textual sources of synagogues, is interested primarily in what the language indicates about synagogue use.By using the works of these two scholars, I hope to draw a morecomplete picture concerning the Gospels depiction of the synagogues.From all of this we can determine the feelings and attitudes of the people regarding the place theyre using.These attitudes show, ultimately, that according to the New Testament, one of the roles of the synagogues was that it acted as a place which allowed for social, political and religious expression in first century Judaea. Mark There are seven references to Judaea n synagogues in the Gospel of Mark, with onlyfour passages demonstrating references of actions occurring around physical synagogues.The Gospel of Mark providesinformation regarding the institutions, including showing the synagogue as a public place that people attended on the Sabbath. 106 Furthermore theMarcan synagogue represents an institution that is public, congregation-based and physical.However, the author of Mark could be reflecting the state of synagogues during his own time or he could have been describing earlier synagogues from a later perspective. 107 Even this does not accurately portray the difficulty of the textual historicity, since the author may have been describing what he himself thought life was like during Jesus time, which must be accounted for in this analysis.Even if this Gospel reflects an immediate post-70 C.E. understanding of the synagogue inJudaea, then perhaps any insights into 106Runesson, 2008, 63-64 107Marcus, 2000, 69-75.
49 synagogue practices are indicative of the state of the Second Temple period synagogue. All four of these Marcan synagogue references follow a similar pattern: Jesus goes into a synagogue, preaches, performs miracles, and either leaves or is cast out. The passage with the most relevant information about synagogues is Mark 3:1-7: Again he entered the [ synagoge ], and a man was there whohad a withered hand.They [the Pharisees] watched him to see whether he would cure him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him.And he said to the man who had the withered hand, Come forward.Then he said to them, Is it lawful to do good or todo harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?But they were silent.He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, Stretch out your hand.He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea... 108 Within this story, Jesus enters a synagogue somewhere in the Galilee.Mark 1:39 refers to several unspecifiedsynagogues in the Galilee and this synagogue is one of them.It is unclear what the term synagogue here is referring to in regard to the physical structure.Like the rest of Mark, the author uses the term synagoge to describe the place where people met.First, there is a clear reference to movement in the place: in the above passage, similar to the other uses of synagoge in Mark, Jesus enters the synagogue and then both Jesus and the Pharisees go out.These verbs, along with this preposition, indicatethat the actors in this narrative are navigating through an object, as they would a building. Similarly, in Mark 12:38-39, Jesus mentions the scribes, who always desire the best seats in the synagogue.The prepositions show that this is a building and not just a gathering of people. In these instances, it seems that Jesus enters a physical structure, meaning that the synagogue 108Unless otherwise noted, this thesis uses The HarperCollins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Edition (HarperCollins, London, 1993.)
50 is a building.But even if it is not an actual structure, the synagogue represents an established space within a city or town, at least enough of one so that Jesus and his followers, traveling around the Galilee, would have known where to go to attend synagogue.By physically recreating this structure through the use of language, this analysis can now more clearly treat attitudes regarding the synagogue. This place may not have possessed restrictions on any person's or things entry.After Jesus has entered the synagogue, he witnesses a man with a withered hand.This is a common motif within the Gospels: someone seeks aid during the Sabbath and Jesus is faced with the decision to save [his] life.Perhaps the qualities of the person with a withered hand can shed some light on meaning in the synagogue. The author of Mark does not specify if the synagogue participants viewed the withered hand as ritually impure.The adjective withered may refer to the paralysis, which is not immediately life threatening. 109 Elsewhere in Mark, spiritual ailments plague people: in Mark 1:23 and 1:39, people in the synagogue have an unclean spirit or else a demon may have cursed them.While these ailments appear in a similar narrative structure, it is not clear if synagogue congregants viewed these ailments as causal or even related.If the synagogue maintained purity in terms of people during this time period, it seems unlikely that someone cursed by a demon could be allowed to enter the space; however there is no evidence, such as in Leviticus or Mishnah, to suggest that even a Jewish sacred place limited the behavior of demons or that anyone forbade it. People may have used a nearby mikveh a ritual bathfor purity,110 but Mark does not make any reference to this. This suggests that purity is not an issue in regard to entering or leaving the synagogue, allowing for a broader group of people to enter 109Marcus, 2000, 247. 110See Introduction, page 10 for discussion of mikvaot
51 the synagogue, which indicates some of the public nature of the synagogue. In this instance, physical or spiritual afflictions did not limit movement into the synagogue. With the narrative set up between Jesus and the man with the withered hand, Markintroduces the antithesis to these characters: the Pharisees.This conflict provides some information about acceptable behavior in the synagogue.Before this scene, specifically in Mark 2:1-27, the Pharisees and the scribes observe Jesus both performingmiracles and arguing against fasting, both of which he does during the Sabbath.They warn Jesus about his actions and watch him to see what he will do in the synagogue on the Sabbath.In this way, as Jesus interacts the man with the withered hand, he isalso engaging the authority of the Jewish community.111 It seems that it is not particularly important that Jesus is performing these miracles in the synagogue, as he does them elsewhere outside of the synagogue in Mark, but rather that he does them on theSabbath.112 The synagogue simply happens to be the place where the Pharisees and Jesus were when Jesus challenged their wisdom.The building and Jesus actions do not affect each other: the place continues to maintain whatever meaning it had within the narrative and Jesus has no qualms defying the authority of the Pharisees in the synagogue. By remaining unchanged by the actions of Jesus, it becomes clear that people maintained a notion of this structure that allowed this type of action or expression. While it is unclear if he is concerned with the Pharisees or not, Jesus engages the man with the withered hand by saying come here.Alternatively, scholars have translated this passage as get up, and come to the middle of the room!113 Both of these translations make a reference to space, but the second one indicates the 111Marcus, 2000, 251-253.112Mark 1:29-31 113Marcus, 2000, 248.
52 arrangement of a building around a focal point in the center, the place where Jesus is standing.The man was also sitting within the crowd of people, though he may have sat in a separate section dedicated to those with ailments.Perhaps the image of the synagogue at Masada or Gamla from chapter one applies here: a four-walled building with benches on all walls and place in the center for someone to stand and lead. Jesus continues by speaking directly to the congregation: Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?According to Jesus, if the people of the synagogue dont do anything to help the man, even on the Sabbath, then that is tantamount to killing him. The Pharisees may be referring to something like Mishnah Shabbat 22.6, which states that one may not heal on the Sabbath.Jesus' response echoes a variant of the Jewish understanding reported in Babylonian Talmud 83a-b, which states that one mustsave a life above all other commandments even on the Sabbath. Furthermore, this image is interesting because it is not clear if the man will soon die, even with the withering hand.Perhaps this is a place where the man expected to go in order to be healed, giving a meaning to the synagogue not seen previously.It is not clear how Jesus expected the people to respond, as he could mean that he wanted the people to pray or heal the man themselves, which may suggest an aspect of the congregation's role in the synagogue.Jesus clearly speaks to the people, even asking a direct question, though there is no answer.Since no one responds, Jesus becomes angry, which perhaps indicates much about the relationship between the people in the synagogue.Compare this relationship to Mark 1:27-28, in which the people in the synagogue amicably discuss Jesus miracles, even spreading his name throughout the countryside: And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept asking one another What is this? A new teaching with authority! He
53 commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him. In these two passages, Jesus stands in the synagogue and interacts with the congregants with two different outcomes: he either angers the congregants or earns their respect.Perhaps the synagogue represents the ultimate public space where anyone could enter and participate in the proceedings.Jesus is angry because no one does anything about the withered hand, implying the expectation that someone should at least say something.It is unclear if Jesus is performing a ritual or otherwise, but no one in the synagogue is upset that Jesus is disobeying the Pharisees. The impetus of Jesus' monologues remains unclear.Mark does not provide any information on why Jesus speaks directly to the congregants or leads this part of the synagogue service. Considering the number of times that Jesus spoke in synagogues, perhaps it was the right of anyone in the synagogue to participate in the synagogue proceedings.Other instances indicate the complexity of the relationship of the speaker to the group. In Mark 1:22, the people recognize that Jesus taught with greater authority than the scribes, so the congregation may have expected a certain amount of training on behalf of the speaker.In a previously unexplored part of synagogue research, the interplay between the leader of the synagogue, who in this passage is Jesus, and the congregation suggests that the synagogue was a public place with an unique political dynamic between the Pharisees and everyone else.Jesus is permitted to speak with authority, even in front of the Pharisees, but the Pharisees remain quiet despite their claim to power.Furthermore, the congregants, along with the man with the withered hand, have an important, if somewhat limited, role in this dialogue.While the man with the withered hand speaks, his role afterward becomes passive.While Mark does not indicate who is permitted to engage in the synagogue service, at least male Jews and Jewish leaders did participate. Considering the people
54 who were allowed to speak in the synagogue, it seems that those who were actually permitted to enter could express themselves in the service. After he addresses the congregation, Jesus returns to the man with the withered hand.With the command to stretch out his hand, Jesus restores the withered hand to a healthier state, after which the Pharisees leave the synagogue.However, this power dynamic plays out more in Mark 13:9, where Jesus discusses the suffering that his followers will endure for misbehaving in the synagogue.These punishments include being beaten in the synagogue, though it is unlikely that the Pharisees or the scribes possessed this right, or else they may have tried to do so with Jesus in lieu of seeking out the authority of the Herodians.Therefore the Pharisees, who had authority over interpretation of the Law, had no power within the synagogue: they had to leave the physical place and appeal to the power of the Herodians to punish Jesus. Likewise, in the above passage, Jesus appeals to the congregants and not any specific synagogue leader.Here then, it is clear that the participants of the synagogue were responding to the strength of each other, and not to any higher leadership. Within Mark, the congregants maintain a majority of the power.Despite the presence of the Pharisees, they bow to the greater pressure of the congregation.In this text, the synagogue is also a physical structure thatmaintains its own order but remains unaffected by purity and sanctity issues.Even if not everyone could enter it, the synagogue represents a place where individuals could express their scriptural and political sentiments to a limited degree. Luke andMatthew Regarding theories of chronology for the New Testament, the majority of scholars agree that Matthew and Luke were both written ten to fifteen years after
55 Mark, around 85-90 CE. 114 While these two books represent separate points of views from two different authors, they are treated in a single section, because, in terms of synagogues, Matthew provides very little information that is not suggested in further detail by Luke.This section treats a passage from Luke that shows a slightly different perspective than Mark.Here, Luke describes a synagogue that is not just a public space, comparable to Mark, it also acts as an important place for the Torah and plays a major role in the daily life of the Jews.Whether this is a development from Mark or not,is unclear.The following passage comes from Luke 4:16-30: When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom.He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him.He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lords favor.And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down.The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.Then he began to say to them, Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, Is not this Josephs son?He said to them, Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb Doctor, cure yourself! And you will say, Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.And he said Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophets hometown.But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon.There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian. When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way. This passage is, according to some, the best insight into a synagogue service in the first century.This story deals with the beginning of Jesus ministry in the Galilee, and 114Binder, 2001, 67.
56 is the first time Jesus enters a synagogue in Luke.This text is a conflation of the story from Mark 6:1-6 and possibly other unknown sources, 115 as it has been expanded and includes a number of new details, including Jesus reading from Isaiah and the existenceof the synagogue attendant. Upon entering the synagogue, Jesus stands up and receives a scroll of the Book of Isaiah.Perhaps an unseen impetus encouraged Jesus to stand up and read from Isaiah.Still, the relationship between this text and the synagogue remain unclear, though it would seem unlikely to suggest that one could only read Isaiah during the Sabbath in the synagogue, as Jesus may haven chosen this particular text considering the parallels between his ministry and the narrative ofIsaiah. Furthermore, with Jesus standing up to read suggests that he was previously sitting or reclining.In fact, standing may have represented an unusual pose within the synagogue, a position that relates directly to the place, as Matthew 6:5 refers too the hypocrites who love to stand and pray in the synagogues.Standing, then, forces everyone in the synagogue to pay attention to the vertical person, implying that a certain amount of meaning applied to this position.It is not that standing is unusual, since it appears often enough in scripture; it is that there is a subtext to this action that reflects the place.Furthermore, Matthew 23:2 discusses the congregant's posture and location: The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses seatThis is reflected in other instances, such as Luke 11:43 and Mark 12:38-39 which refer to scribes sitting in the seat of honor or the best seat of the synagogue.However, all of these phrases likely represent the same seats.Here Jesus brings up these seats to refer to the scribes and the Pharisees that desire attention and behave poorly, and therefore do not deserve these great seats.None of these authors mention why the scribes and the 115See Fitzmyer, 1981, 526-530 for information regarding the Q-hypothesis.
57 Pharisees are permitted to use these seats even though, at least according to Jesus, they may not deserve it.In any case, with certain seats assigned to a certain group, the synagogue seating and standing becomes an issue to be navigated within the synagogue.In both of these positions, the individual is bringing attention to themselves.While these texts hint at a more complex subtext, these postures provide powerful tools, which were only available within the synagogue, to express social statuses. After Jesus gets up and reads from the Book of Isaiah and then hands the scroll back to the attendant, which is possibly Haftarah .The Haftarah is a collection of passages from prophets established by the rabbis to beread during the Sabbath, though it is unclear if this concept is yet operative or if thereis a distinction between the prophetic readings and the Torah in this passage. Perhaps people just saw this as scripture. This might mean that the people did not necessarily store the Torah in the synagogue, but other scripture as well. The attendant in this passage represents the most specifically referenced role within the synagogue.However, the duties of this individual are unclear.He may work for the entire synagogue, performing whatever jobs are necessary, or may have performed the duties similar to a sexton or sacristan. 116 Confirmed by other sources, especially the archaeology, is the role of the scripture within the synagogue.The Masada synagogue had its own room dedicated to storing the Torah while the Gamla synagogue has a niche which probably fulfilled the same role.With both one person and a place dedicated to the maintenance of this scroll, perhaps this indicates something about the scrolls importance within the synagogue.The existence of the attendant and the space for storing the Torah shows that synagogue may have acted as a scriptural center.The synagogue represents at 116Fitztmyer, Luke, 533.
58 least one place where Jews could store, discuss and perhaps study these holy texts. This suggests an important role for the synagogue within certain Jewish communities: a place for the storage and study of the Torah, providing one means of orientation within the synagogue.As hinted at by the Gamla synagogue in the first chapter, the synagogue in this text is providing a scriptural center for the people of a certain community.These Jews oriented themselves to part of their world through their synagogue. After Jesus finishes reading from Isaiah, some hints appear regarding the social relations of the synagogue.After Jesus announces himself as sent by God by saying that no prophet is accepted in the prophets hometown, he goes on to interpret Isaiah in a manner that offends the congregants.It is not clear how Jesus expects the congregants to respond.In other instances, mentioned in detail below, it seems acceptable for the congregants to respond to Jesus when he is talking, so perhaps there is a certain amount of dialogue expected in a synagogue service.After this, Jesus continues, and angers the congregation with his interpretation of Isaiah, causing them to get up and drive him out of the town.From this passage, the congregants hold a strong amount of power within the authority of the synagogue. They consult no authority before rejecting Jesus' eschatological vision.This exit perhaps reflects some of the intentions of the synagogue service: Jesus, in his actions, is very aware of the power of the congregation and its ability to act on its own. In Luke 13:14-17, the author presents a distinction between the decisions of the synagogue leader and the actions of crowd.In this passage, Jesus cures a woman on the Sabbath and defends his actions: But the synagogue leader, indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the
59 Sabbath days.But the Lord answered him and said, You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water?And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he wasdoing. The synagogue leader enters an unspecified Galilean synagogue, where Jesus cures a woman on the Sabbath, an action that causes the synagogue leader to become upset. The congregants, on the other hand, revel in the actions of Jesus.In this instance, there exists tension between all the players of the synagogue.Jesus, who issues a claim about the Sabbath, becomes a third party to the power dynamics of whether to allow him to remain in the synagogue or not.The leader, upset that Jesus challenged the tradition of not curing on the Sabbath, wants the congregants to know that this is unacceptable behavior.However, the congregants are clearly more than pleased that Jesus cured a woman on the Sabbath, even though it angers the synagogue leader. In this way, the congregants are able to express their feelings and sentiments without reprimand. Luke 4:16-30, which refers to a Nazareth synagogue, and Luke 13:10-17, a Galilean synagogue, present some tensions in synagogue power and authority. As seen in Mark, the Pharisees and the scribes have no power within the placeand need to seek out a greater power in order to punish Jesus.In Nazareth, as discussed in the beginning of this section, the congregants actively get up and drive Jesus out of town, willing to even kill him because of his Torah interpretation.Perhaps they perceived Jesus as bringing some type of disorder into the purity of the synagogue. The Nazareth congregants are acting on their own and apparently do not need the guidance of a specific leader.The same occurs in the Galilean synagogue, even though, in this
60 case, a synagogue leader changes the dynamic that was already ongoing between the two groups.In this second passage from Luke, the congregants actively oppose the opinion of the synagogue leader.Throughout Luke, then, the congregants clearly maintain their own authority and this space provides a location for these people to get together and to proclaim their politico-religious views. It is importantto also bring up the role of women, specifically the one in Luke 13:10-17.This represents the only time that one finds a woman within a synagogue at least before the second century and ultimately provides more questions than answers. 117 There is evidenceof women supporting synagogues, according to inscriptions in earlier periods, but this marks the earliest reference of a woman in the actual building. 118 Luke 13:11 describes her as possessing a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years  [and] she was bent over and quite unable to stand up straight.This spirit is not unclean like in Mark 3:1-7.For more clarification, another translation is that the woman possessed a spirit of sickness or infirmity which carries less of a spiritual connotation; 119 though no other information is given. Furthermore, her age is unknown.Instead, the existence of the woman in a synagogue shows quite possibly that women were allowed, though in what capacity, it is impossible to say.She may have possessed great influence or perhaps only this specific synagogue allowed women or maybe they all did.Everyone is so complacent about the presence of a woman, that her presence is either normal in this synagogue setting or the authors made up the incident, so peoples reactions are inaccurate. Ultimately, the books of Luke and Matthew together present another social aspect of the synagogue.Luke and Matthew present a variety of individuals moving in the 117Runesson, 2008, 90.118Levine, 2005, 103-104. 119Fitzmyer,1981, 1012.
61 synagogues.Pharisees sit in certain places and, in one unusual case, a woman enters the synagogue.Finally, Jesus presents one of the few scripture readings recorded by any of the ancient sources.Through all of these examples, the synagogue provides a place for Jews to assert their identity and their values. John The Gospel of John contains the fewest synagogue references, with at least one of those being later additions. 120 It also represents the last of all of the Gospels. In this way, John provides an interesting point of view on synagogues and their role in daily life at the turn of the century.The Gospel of John waswritten nearly 70 years after the events in which it describes and the author may have composed the text in as far away from Israel as Ephesus in Asia Minor.121 However, if the writings of John are accurate, then the synagogues did not allow for the congregants to have as much power as the other Gospels suggest.None of the passages from John describe actions within a synagogue, though this passage, from John 12:42 typifies the role ofthe synagogue in the Gospel of John: Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him.But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue Like two other passages from John, 9:22-23 and 16:1-4, this is a warning against what will happen to those who accept Jesus as Messiah.The author of John is referring to a synagogue in Jerusalem and is talking about Jews who could be kicked out of the synagogue.In the above passages from Mark and Luke, the congregants either celebrate Jesus or eject him from the synagogue, implying that the power rested with the majority of the congregants.In this passage from John 12:42, the Christ-followers 120Runesson, 2008, 86.121Binder, 2000, 67.
62 do not announce their faith for fear of the wrath of thePharisees.The Pharisees here show some actual power within the synagogue, which is interesting compared to the other Gospels in which they remain passive watchers. 122 Since John is the latest of the canonical Gospels, perhaps this shift in power represents a growing power of the Rabbis, whom the author may have associated with the Pharisees.References to getting kicked out of or punished in the synagogue appear several times in the other three Gospels: there exist three references to receiving a beatingin both Mark and Matthew, and Jesus is kicked out once in all of the Gospels.However, even when gettingbeaten, there is no threat of actual removal, except in Luke, and the story in which the congregants forcefully remove Jesus may represent an anomaly.Either way, John provides a contrast to these accounts of Mark, Luke and Matthew, by emphasizing the threat of rejection from the synagogue These differences prove that, even though the synagogue acted as a space where Jews could exhibit their sentiments, punishments limited behavior and created tensions in this space. Conclusions The Four Gospels provide a wealth of information about the synagogue in the first century.From this information, it is clear that synagogues acted as important social and political centers for individual towns in the first centuryIsrael.Jews came to the synagogue on the Sabbath to discuss liturgy and participate in Sabbath services.This confirms findings in both Josephus and from archaeological reports that the synagogue acted as both a religious and spiritual center.Furthermore, according to Mark, Luke and Matthew, the synagogue represented a complex social and political space where the congregants maintained a limited amount of expression. 122Grabbe, 1992, 482-484.
63 By the time of John, this expression may have disappeared or, if that text is accurate, may never have existed.In either case, the synagogue represents a more complex socio-political space than previously thought.The synoptic Gospels show the synagogue as a point of society where social and political tension met during the first century. Ultimately, according to the New Testament, one of the roles of the synagogues was that created a place that allowed for social, political and religious expression in first century Judaea.
64 Conclusion: Out of the Synagogue When beginning this project, I originally intended to find and prove that the Jews in the ancient world saw the synagogues as sacred.This goal changed as I understood that place and space are not simply sacred, but rather they contain meaning and power for the people that engage within it.By delving into a few key sources that represent a small time period and regional space, I was able to explore the components of meaning for this ancient building.The purpose of this project ultimately sought to understand how people in the ancient world viewed the synagogues in first centuryIsrael. This institution needed to be understood in its own context.Throughout all of these sources, the synagogue marked a more differentiated place that provided a number of important functions, including orienting people throughout the world and maintaining a place of social and political interaction. In order to truly understand the role a synagogue played in a certain community, the synagogue, as well as its community, should be understood in as much depth as is possible.By focusing on a small region,Judaea, and a short time period, the first century, this thesis has been able toexplore the role ofthe synagogue in an in-depth manner at a specific location.Unfortunately, there remains very little information from this time period, including three synagogue remains, an inscription and a handful of literary references, from both the New Testament and the writings of Josephus.Josephus is a difficult source since he is trying to convey ideas about Jewish life to a Gentile audience.The New Testament authors are also troublesome since all of them are writing from a great distance about events that occurred many
65 years before.In order to help understand this limited availability of sources, I have turned to the historical writings of Anders Runesson, Stephen Fine and Lee Levine. These authors provided the most up-to-date research on synagogue studiesand source interpretation.I have also taken into consideration the theoretical writings of scholars such as J Z Smith and Mary Douglas.These scholars have provided the language and process to not only engage these sources, but also the tools to understand these buildings in a historical context. The title of this research refers to Luke 4:16, where Jesus arrives at the synagogue. By titling it To the Synagogue, this thesis is emphasizing the spatial importance of the synagogue. Each synagogue represents a specific place in a community, one that has meaning and context.The archaeological remains suggest that the synagogue played a key role in the center of a community, orienting people through it.These buildings provided a place for Torah studyand a place for discussion.Furthermore, some evidence even suggests that the synagogue acted as a guide for not only the community, but for travelers and pilgrims as well.Josephus supplements this thesis by demonstrating how the synagogue played the role of geographical marker along the landscape ofJudaea.His writings also hint at the importance the synagogue played as an identity marker for the Jews that used the buildings.Finally, the New Testament account provides information about the social importance of the synagogue in day-to-day life.Here the synagogue allows Jews to express a variety of aspects about their identity, including their social rank and their scriptural interpretations.Through all of these sources, the synagogue in first centuryJudaeaplayed a more important social function than previously thought. While it is difficult to claim exactly what this place meant for the people that used it, it no doubt meant something significant and figured importantly during normal life.
66 Every year, new scholarship is published regarding the ancient synagogue. Perhaps future research in this field can build upon this method.By integrating the complex context of synagogues in the ancient world, I revealed social and political places glossed over in the more general surveys. Future research can more completely understand the role the synagogue played at that time.Additionally, my study, with a more thorough survey about synagogues outside of Judaea and beyond the first century, may bring to light the way the ancient Jews viewed the synagogue from its very origins. By understanding the synagogue in these formative years, it becomes easier to provide a comprehensive history of the synagogue and to further understand the role thatthis institution played in later centuries.
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